Richland City councilmembers agreed last night that without a more detailed plan, they were unwilling to reduce the Ben Franklin Transit sales tax funding to pay for a mental health facility. As Councilmember Bob Thompson put it, he was against “Robbing Peter to pay Paul with no plan.” Councilmember Terry Christensen did not attend the special meeting.

Benton and Franklin County commissions have pushed for the referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot that would ask voters to divert .1% of the .6% transit sales tax to fund a mental health facility. Thompson complained that the counties collect money that they don’t spend.

Councilmember Phil Lemley, who represents the city on the Ben Franklin board had asked the council at their Aug. 2 meeting for instructions on how to vote at the Aug. 12 Ben Franklin Board meeting. A resolution on the agenda would DECLINE to support a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Lemley pointed out that voters had approved the .6% sales tax for Ben Franklin in a vote almost 20 years ago.

At last night’s meeting councilmembers said that it was too late to put a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot. The referendum would have to be in February instead.

Mayor Ryan Lukson said that he thought there was a plan in place for the mental health facility, but it had not been shared with the community.

Councilmember Sandra Kent wondered, “What did they select this funding mechanism and try to ram it through?”

The Council voted to direct Lemley to vote against the referendum plan during the Ben Franklin Aug. 12 board meeting.

Lukson said, “We need a meeting to hear concrete plans.”

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